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    Josh Blaylock Interview

    On January 18, 2005, rumors surrounding the comic book started, hinting at cancellations, reboots, and relaunches. Josh Blaylock, President and founder of Devil's Due Publishing, took the time to answer the following questions for us regarding the rumors and DDP's plans for G.I.Joe.

    Master & Apprentice II

    Q: Will Storm Shadow's loyalties be decided and explained by the end of Master & Apprentice II?

    Yes, and it plays an integral role in the development of the new series.

    Free Comic Book Day

    Q: Will the G.I.Joe story in the Free Comic Book Day offering from Devil's Due be a completely original story or a preview of the relaunched title?

    It will be a preview of what's to come, but not completely original... we have something else planned for that. An offer no one will be able to refuse.

    Retailers and Reprints

    Q: Explain why, even though sales are down, books are constantly in need of being reprinted? Are they being under-ordered by retailers?

    Yes. It's a catch 22. We used to overprint a ton, and were always praised by retailers for doing so. They liked it because they could order lower and reorder later. It's good in theory, but the initial excitement for a comic book is in the first couple of weeks, and when it comes time to reorder, many are a lot more reluctant to. I can't count the times I've gotten an email saying "I tried to order this book from my store, but they say they can't get it, or just don't carry it" when we know it's in stock at the distributor. Again, this all goes into how how dramatic you have to make your "shake-ups" in a series to get retailer attention. With so much competition it's a constant battle.

    Q: What steps are you taking to prevent this in the future?

    Again, the new series structure makes it much more accessible to various writers, so don't be surprised if you see some other big names on board in the future. We also need to make sure to keep the most popular characters around, and keep the obscure guest appearances in control. I love playing with the offbeat characters, but the harsh reality is 80% of the casual readers get turned off if you do it too much. We THOUGHT we were keeping a good balance, but may have strayed too far from the core team for a little too long.

    Q: Any progress of getting G.I.Joe comics back to newsstand retailers?

    We're working on it. There is a contract in place, and it's just a matter of nailing down some of the fine print. This is something we'll really be focusing on when the toy line takes off in the future.

    Obligatory Larry Hama Question

    Q: Will Larry Hama be brought in to write another G.I.Joe story anytime soon?

    Nothing planned soon, but I should really give Larry a call and say hi. We haven't seen him since some DDP crew, Hasbro staff, and he all went cruising for trouble down at Disney's Pleasure Island during the G.I.Joe convention last summer. Ask him to tell you his "Tim Seeley" story.

    Rumor Release and Rumor Control

    Q: How did the rumors get out? Were the rumors planted by Devil's Due to increase interest?

    It wasn't us. I actually didn't want the rumors to get out when Rich Johnston (writer of the column "Lying in the Gutters" that started this whole thing) sent them to me for comment. I made some corrections for him, but wouldn't comment on others aspects. We weren't ready to say anything, and still working on a ton of promotion. It's been a VERY busy last few weeks. On top of this, it hit me while I was laid up for about a week with Shoulder Bursitis, living off of vicodin. Fun, eh? But that's how the game is played. I can handle it.

    Q: Why was there such a delay in addressing the rumors?

    I really wasn't sure what we wanted to say. I know some people were upset, but a LOT of it was based on some crazy assumptions. Assumptions and heresay that later seemed to take on a life of its own. I don't think it was a horrible thing, though. This is partially why we needed to make a serious change - to get everyone's attention. It just caused a change in how we announced this to the world. So rather than an official press release to kick things off, I've just decided to let all of the people reading this interview be the first to hear about it.


    Q: How stringent is the editorial control (dictated by Hasbro) exercised over the actual writing of the comic? Was this move forced by Hasbro?

    Hasbro has remained fairly hands off since day one. They always tell us what we 'can't' do rather than tell us what 'to' do. They have to be very sensitive to the needs of kids for the toyline, and so the collector driven comic is a little too edgy for them to push with the toys. I don't want to speak for them officially. As the brand gets a major push in '05 I'm hoping to finally be able to really make a heavy push for a younger market, all the while maintaining a series for collectors. Two different markets, and therefore different products with mild crossover. If I say anything more, though, they'll send the ninjas after me.

    Q: If Hasbro would use a DD created character for a figure (like they did with Kamakura), do they pay DD for the rights to use the image? Or, do the rights for any G.I.Joe comic related character automatically go to Hasbro?

    I don't really feel comfortable going into the specifics of our arrangement, sorry. I will say that we've become more involved in the toys from a design standpoint, which is awesome. The toy team still has a very clear vision of what they want, and we're just along for the ride, but it's great to be involved from the ground up.

    In House Editorial Control

    Q: How stringent is the in house editorial control (not dictated by Hasbro) exercised over the actual writing of the comic?

    Well, editors always give their input on stories, and make changes here and there when it's felt very important. Sometimes they don't touch the story, and other times they make serious changes if it's agreed something's seriously not working and it's extremely close to production time.

    When a major change in the direction of the book is decided on a company wide level, though, and a change in creative needs to happen, editorial always gets more hands on because it's very important to make sure that the new writer can start off with as clean a slate as possible.

    I know there are more details on this that some readers wish I'd go into, but that's not something I'm going to discuss. No matter what I say there, I'd be damned if I do, damned if I don't.

    Other Devil's Due Projects

    Q: Any other Devil's Due Projects in the works that you are particularly excited about?

    The G.I.JOE: ARASHIKAGE SHOWDOWN is a Manga Spin on Joe, focusing on, you guessed it, the Arashikage Ninja. It's the first Joe book I've written in a long time, and I'm really happy with the way the story came out. The art is going much slower than planned, but it's coming along. It will be part of our D3 Digest line, which includes two more of my projects, Misplaced and Penguin Bros.

    There are also TWO big licenses that we have planned to announce soon. Wish I could spill the beans!


    Q: Thanks for taking the time to clear up some rumors and answer a lot of questions!

    My pleasure. I hope everyone's half as excited about the new direction of the series as I am. And Thanks again for all your support. Let's go and get even more support in 2005! Bug bug bug your retailer! After they take your subscription order, ask if they've ordered enough for casual fans browsing the racks. Make sure they're carrying enough copies!

    There are probably a couple thousand people who are reading this interview today, and a few thousand in total over the next week. If even a fraction of you call your local comic shop RIGHT NOW and tell them MAJOR things are happening in G.I.Joe, and an all new series is starting in July, that could increase orders by thousands of copies almost overnight. It's THAT simple. Anybody want to do that? 1-888-COMIC-BOOK will give you the numbers you need!

    You made the difference three and a half years ago, and you can do it again. Yo Joe.

    Also, special thanks to Phil Kost of JoeReloaded.com, James McFadden of JMM's G.I.Joe Comics Home Page, and everyone else who submitted questions!

    Part I (Wrapping up the Current Series) - Part II (Relaunch) - Part III (Reloaded) - Part IV (Robots) - Part V (Other)

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